White Corridor by Christopher Fowler


White Corridor

It’s always a gamble to pick up books by unknown authors. And I seem to do a bad job of it at Christmas every year. Each year we spend some time in the car, so we grab audio books. This year’s selection was a mixed bag of known authors and unknown authors. We listened to this title and it was definitely a mixed bag.

The story revolves around two older gentlemen who run a Peculiar Crimes Unit in London. They are quirky, cranky, and odd. Which of course makes them fun. They can get away saying and doing things that a younger detective would be fired over. In this story, the two detectives are stranded out in a snow storm miles from anywhere with a killer, the killer’s intended victim, and plenty of innocent people. A blizzard trapped many cars on a busy bypass through the English countryside in subzero temperatures. This situation becomes a race for personal survival in the cold and an effort to rescue the victim from killer.

Meanwhile, back at the PCU, their staff has a mystery on its hands that could eventually give their political enemies the leverage to shut them down. The two older detectives attempt to help solve that crime as well using their cell phones while stranded out in the cold.

All in all, it makes for a great setup. There are a few downsides to the book though. First, two of the characters have an affair. (I have no idea how descriptive it was as I skipped it.) The author uses this as a plot device as the girl believes she is now psychically bonded to the man.

Update: From the author’s comments below: “My romantic scenes are chaste; imagination is better.”

Second, there is profanity in the book. Third, the author is very anti-God and anti-religion. The lead spends much of his time supporting, encouraging, and getting assistance from witches, warlocks, and all sorts of cultic groups. (They were traveling to a cultist convention when they were stranded.)

I can ignore the cultist things. What I have less trouble accepting is the affair and the language.

I did find one other thing disturbing. Despite the modern setting, so much of the described English life could have been pulled right from an Agatha Christie novel that I found the modern technology jolting. It’s not the author’s fault; most of my experience with English detectives come from Christie and books set in the early to mid 20th century. So, I often dropped back into that mental picture until a cell phone appeared again. Whoops….

Have you ever had that experience?

The Winning of Kay Slade By, Albert C. Wyckoff

Plot: During a long stay at my grandparent’s home, I picked up this book, which, unknown to me, was a romance novel. I do not tend to enjoy these, but found this one to be different.

It is not apparent at first who will be the main character, but as we read through the first few chapters it becomes clear that Kay Slade, second youngest of four children, is she. Kay’s parents are tenets for a man named Mr. Potter, they live in a shack and wear filthy clothing. As we read, it is obvious from the people visiting the Slades home viewpoint, that the food they eat would not pass normal standards of cleanliness.

Kay is quite young when a preacher and his wife come to teach at the Poletown church, and is delighted when they plan to hold a vacation Bible school in the summer. It is through this preacher that Kay is taught to follow Christ, and better her situation in life with education. She does this and meets many good people along the way, including her future husband, and a few not so nice people. Her great desire is to one day marry and provide a better home for her children than what she was brought up in.

Positive: This book has strong Christian content, contains no swearing and our main characters are good role models. There is also some humor, which adds greatly to the story.

Negative: There is one part where a bad guy tries to force our heroine to kiss him, but it isn’t bad, and our hero does rescue her before anything happens. The heroine’ parents are not exactly the greatest role models, but considering their upbringing and circumstances they’re not bad. One girl does elope, but quickly makes up with her parents.

Overall: Though a romance novel and not the type I usually pick up, it was at my grandma’s house and I liked it, not my favorite, but it wasn’t bad.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner


Queen of Attolia

Plot: As I mentioned in my review of “The Thief,” there are four countries, Attolia, Sounis, Eddis and Mede.

Our story begins in Attolia, where we open to find Eugenides sneaking through the queen’s palace. The alarm has been set and they are hunting him down, unalarmed Eugenie’s makes his way to the palace’s outer wall, he becomes increasingly troubled, as soldiers seem to be at every corner. After a good chase through the town, Eugenides runs through the olive groves to the river. It being dark, our hero does not see the boards, nailed between two trees, blocking his path. Banging his head he falls to the ground, unable to rise, the queen’s dogs grab him and keep him down until the guards come for him. After much debate and thought, the queen of Attolia decides to hang him, but through the Mede ambassador’s persuasion, she has Eugenides hand cut off. After a few days lying in pain in his cell, Eugenides is returned to his worried queen. Enraged at the anguish brought to her beloved thief, the queen of Eddis captures the next ten large Attolian caravans that come through the pass, she sends the people home and keeps the merchandise. Attolia tells her to return the merchandise or she will deem it an act of war. War it is.

Eugenides’s hand is healed and he has started appearing in public every now and again. We find out later, that he did not know about the war, only because he didn’t want to. When he does ‘find’ out, he takes action, which the reader will find to be fairly humorous. (At least I did.) Through a series of events, Eugenides is led to leave Eddis and return with a glorious plot for bringing Attolia to her knees. He plans to take a brigade of men and capture the queen of Attolia.

Positive: In this sequel to “The Thief,” the plot is a little more obvious, but not much.

For a brief period in the book our hero sulks around for a bit, but his attitude improves and he stops sulking. Eventually he comes to find, that, even with one hand, he is still dangerous to his enemies. Humor is given at just the proper times, to relieve the stress of seeing our beloved hero go through pain, there also humor when he is not in pain as well. There is not as much humor in this book as in the first, but its still just as funny.

The Queen of Attolia, though bad to start out with, becomes good and repents. This book demonstrates forgiveness, loyalty and trust. Something all of us could use.

Negative: The main negative actions in this book are lying and several swear words, there is little stealing. There are a few references to torture, but nothing is put in detail. Our hero gets his hand cut off, that goes in to some amount of detail, but nothing unbearable. (Thankfully) Following the loss of his hand, he has constant nightmares, which he wakes up screaming to. A woman is threatened with drowning and our hero is slapped a few times. Again, there are gods in this book, (of earth, sky, thieves, mountains etc.) but in the back the authoress states that they were all invented by her imagination. That just about covers it.

Overall: Just as the first, I liked this book very much. I have read it, and its sequel several times over. They are the type that you can read over and over without becoming tedious. Our hero is pure genius, as is our authoress who gave our hero life. And even though we learned much of his character in the first book, it is still unclear what he is really up to many times throughout the plot. The authoress has a fine way of bringing you into her books, and giving you hints as well as keeping the main plot a secret.

I recommend this book to all. If you like a page turning work of fiction, you will love Megan Whalen Turners “The Queen of Attolia.”